Barcelona, the colorful Catalan Capital, is a major tourist destination known for its endless sunny beaches and Gaudi’s modernist sites such as Sagrada Familia and Park Guell.
This stunning getaway lured for centuries writers, painters and artists in general, who were deeply impressed by the lively atmosphere of its city center and its breathtaking ancient spots that mix one another creating the perfect fusion between old and modern.
This picturesque city has a darker soul too, as many of catalan artists show us. Its mysterious halo, which becomes undeniable while strolling through the Gothic District and Raval, is hooked up to its troubled past and events that happened during the XX Century. From Francois dictatorship to its struggle for independence, Barcelona is a special city to discover on both sides: the bright and the dark one.
It is right in the twentieth-century Barcelona that the iconic novels by Carlos Ruiz Zafón take place. Zafón, who were originally from the Catalan Capital, depicts an enigmatic town where the main characters grow and change under the influence of the dark shadow of last century, as we can read in his “The Shadow of the Wind”. Today, his novels are amazing successful masterpieces known worldwide, and he is still considered one of the best Spanish writers of the past few years.
We may think that his ability was all thanks to his imagination: incredibly, the main locations where his novels were set really exist and inspired him.
Let’s discover Barcelona under a new light, an enchanted and gothic one, following the literary itinerary of Zafón’s fascinating novels.
Located on the west side of Barcelona longest street, Las Ramblas, El Raval neighborhood is a charming area delimited by the Port on one side and by Catalunya Square on the other. Carrer de l’Arc del Teatre is a small alley in the Raval area, very close to the scented colorful Boqueria Market, where the novel Shadow of the Wind starts. According to Zafon, you can find the Cemetery of Forgotten Books here.
Walking towards South, it is possible to reach one of Gaudì's most beautiful works that is listed among Unesco World Heritage Sites: Palau Guell.
Despite being quite different from other masterpieces by Gaudì especially in its front facade which is way too simple, its interiors reflect the Guells’ wealthy status. Do not miss the incredibly surprising rooftop which is decorated with 20 vivid ceramic chimneys, each one designed with a different shape and pattern.
On the other side of the Ramblas, the stunning Gothic District is an unmissable stop along the Zafon’s itinerary. This lovely quarter is the true heart of the catalan town, where you can stop at one of the countless bars and restaurants to taste the local culinary specialties such as tapas. Gothic District attracted artists like Picasso and many other modernists for years. They were used to hang out at Els cuatre Gats, a typical pub where artists could arrange their exhibitions. While entering there, you can still feel the last century atmosphere, which is even more real gazing at the well preserved photos, drawings and decorations.
At Els Cuatre Gats, the main character of Zafón’s novel, Daniel, meets his bookseller friend.
Today, the Picasso Museum still stands in this Gothic area, preserving some of his best art pieces which are worth seeing.
Do not forget to pay a visit to the thrilling Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar and to the iconic Santa Eulalia, the symbol of the neighborhood.
Looking for the highest point of Barcelona to admire a breathtaking view? Tibidabo surely won’t disappoint you. It is very easy to reach both by car and public transport getting on a cable railway. From there you can either go on the Ferris Wheel or visit the magnificent Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In Zafón’s novels, many modernist Villas are located in the Tibidabo area just below the highest point: some of them are abandoned, others are crumbling. They seem to convey a sinister and obscure atmosphere, however you look at them.
All in all, Barcelona is a unique city and we truly get to know it only when observing its double soul, as we can read in Zafón’s novels.
As he says: “Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”